Sunday, January 29, 2012

What a speed trap tells visitors.....

Got my first "speed trap" ticket yesterday--you know, where you've got a road with wide shoulders, few houses along it, and inexplicably the speed limit is 30mph--and had some thoughts about what a speed trap tells visitors, whether or not they get a ticket.

1.  If you choose to run a business in our town, we will greet your vendors, customers, and employees with tickets unrelated to an actual safety hazard on the road.
2.  Our City Council and police are filled with people who have no particular moral qualm about imposing harsh monetary and other penalties on people whose actions have posed no danger to anyone, let alone done anything immoral.
3.  We are going to choose to ignore real crime issues--or budget issues--in order to staff our speed trap. 
4.  We will let you know how important our speed trap is to us by staffing its enforcement, but not other pressing issues with crime.
5.  We value our ticket revenue so much that we are willing to actually create a safety hazard by creating an incentive for locals to slow down when every other part of the road says that a safe driving speed is 45mph.  (this also goes for cities that reduce the yellow light time to increase tickets for running red lights....part of Colorado that I do not miss at all!)

It would be interesting to track the economic prospects of cities and towns with a lot of speed traps (and short yellow lights) versus those without.  I'm guessing those without--those whose police forces actually do seem to care about dealing with crime instead of issuing tickets and harassing otherwise law-abiding motorists--also have a much better record of attracting employers.

If an iPhone was in my budget.....

.....this, along with other things I've learned about Apple product reliability, would dissuade me.  Now there are of course the moral issues that I thought that we as a nation had overcome--slavery, nasty abuse of workers, and such--but there is also the issue of "what kind of work are Apple's assemblers going to do with no sleep and minimal food?"   I know that on this side of the pond, a lot of things happen to product quality when workers go beyond 8-9 hours of work a day, and none of them are good.  So if you wonder why you just got a new iPhone under warranty--or for that matter any of a host of electronics now made in China--you know know one big reason why.

(I personally keep boxes and receipts for all electronics I purchase for at least a year--and one particular piece of electro-mechanical genius from General Electric--a clock radio/CD player-- appears to have helped that company to decide to leave the business altogether....I ended up getting four of them on warranty returns because they didn't bother to balance the motor/bearings that spun the CD)

Now of course, Deming's Law--85% of quality problems start in management--still holds for a very simple reason; you can bet your bottom dollar that the decision to get those workers out of bed didn't happen in the worker dormitories.

Friday, January 27, 2012

An argument in favor of public schooling.....

....comes, inadvertently, from President Obama, who apparently is advocating that students stay in school until they graduate.  Now, the reality that not all children have what it takes to get that diploma (even in today's government schools) isn't actually the major issue here.  Rather, the big issue is that the last thing our public schools need is more students who really, really, really don't want to be there.

Public school graduates know that well, having seen and experienced the antics of the burnouts--the ones that turn "least common denominator" in the government schools into "nature, red in tooth and claw" with a side dish of "literacy will be a great achievement in a class with this many bums warming desks." It's hard to believe, but apparently some of the greatest schools in this country can't figure out that putting rear ends in desks is not equivalent to imparting learning at the other end of their torsos.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

An honor I can brag about

I'm happy to announce that the Mayer of Da Mob, Mr. Dilettante, has named me Gluten Addiction Czar of his administration.  And wielder of Ockham's Razor, but Gluten Addiction Czar just sounds way cooler.

And of course, I'm not only the Gluten Addiction Czar, I'm also an addict myself.  Life is good.  And the MOB has a Mayer we can be proud of for assigning his flunkies friends to the most inane jobs.  Now where's the butter?

(thanks, Mark!)

Monday, January 23, 2012

An encouraging sign

What with depressing things to consider like the 39th anniversary of Roe V. Wade and a repeat philanderer winning the South Carolina primary, it's good to think of something positive.

For example, I had a very encouraging talk with one of my coworkers, who was truly disturbed over some things being done where I work--we had a fun chat about the difference between legal, ethical, and moral.  Lots of things that are legal, and some that are even OK according to business ethics, are yet not moral.

An example--not from my company but from my investment company.  Looking at some of the directors of my mutual funds.  Apparently, some of them are providing tons of guidance to no less than 153 mutual funds, while finding time to be an executive, professor, and so on.  Now don't get me wrong, but if I remember typical fees for directing a company or mutual fund properly--$10k and up--and calculating the actual amount of time they'd have to devote to this enterprise--less than a day per mutual fund if they're really putting in the hours.  Good work if you can get it, I guess, but can we really say that they're likely to be adding anything significant to this enterprise?

Legal?  Yup?  Passes business ethics?  Of course.  Moral?  I'm thinking "no."  More like "discreet payback to college frat buddies."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Baby Ben's first top 11 list

Here are Ben's favorite CDs and LPs for getting to sleep when he's got trouble getting his rest at night.  Or, possibly, the albums that keep Dad's feet moving until little eyes start to close.  (we report; you decide!)

1.  Frankie Yankovic and his Yanks, Greatest Hits.  (no, he's not closely related to Weird Al, though they're both Slovenian in descent)

2.  Boozoo Chavis, especially his #1 hit cool song "Dog Hill."

3.  Richard Dowling, Rhapsody in Ragtime.

4.  Oktoberfest with Rudi's Sauerkraut Symphonie and Oom-Pah-Pah Band.  (a 25 cent garage sale purchase by my mom...put out by Kolb's Restaurant.  Was this it?)

5.  47th St. Concertina Club (a fave of Gino's I'm sure), Volume 4.

6.  Old Country Style, Volume 2, featuring Eddie Blazonczyk and Chet Kowalkowski.

7.  Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones, Bel-Aire LP 3020.

8.  Three Spirituals, as sung by his big sisters.

9.  For that matter, just about anything sung by his big sisters.  Hear them sing this Saturday (with 44 of their closest friends) at Fourth Baptist Church in Plymouth.

10.  Songs from the book of Psalms.

11.  Our family's special version of "Little Bunny Foo Foo"

Little Bunny Foo-Foo, hopping through the forest, Daddy lifts his shotgun and shoots him in the chest.  And then comes the good Mommy, and she says "Little Bunny Foo Foo, we're a gonna eat you, yummy Hasenpfeffer like Daddy likes it best"

Repeat with Little Bunny Foo-Foo's brothers, using names of other family members, other weapons, and other foods/garments you can make using rabbit meat and hide.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

At your service

Apparently, President Obama is trying to blame Republicans for his rejection of the Keystone pipeline expansion, claiming that the deadline was too short, and that the environmental problems are intractable.  Let's try a little bit of reality here; he's had three years to make this decision, there are 25,000 miles of oil pipelines over the Ogalalla Aquifer already (including the current Keystone Pipeline), and the sum total of oil that has spilled from a similar pipeline, that across Alaska, has leaked a sum total of....

....about enough oil to fill a modest sized pond.

OK, not good for that pond area, but let's face facts.  If Team Obama can't evaluate a building permit application in three years, maybe he ought to do the honest thing and resign from the job he obviously isn't doing.  Moreover, his move is going to put more supertankers on the seas (more Amoco Cadiz and Exxon Valdez disasters), burning more greenhouse gases, all while keeping tens of thousands of construction workers unemployed.

Oh, and the kicker; the current Keystone pipeline actually has a greater risk to aquifers because (a) it is older,  (b) crosses the rivers in the Mississippi River watershed at a lower point--where water flow is greater--and (c) it intersects rivers in the Hudson's Bay watershed, which the proposed new pipeline does not.  So what President Obama has done is to increase reliance on the pipeline which actually would pose the greater danger to watersheds. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Name the logical fallacy

Apparently, a high ranking Swedish government official is arguing that since children have the legal right to an education, therefore they must be educated in the government's schools.  I'm thinking "non sequitur" sums it up, and let the world know what too much lutefisk and aquavit apparently does to a woman's thinking.  It's not pretty, and sadly, freedom minded Swedes are going to be paying the price for the pathetic ignorance and/or bigotry of a Swede who apparently has never heard of Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, Princeton, Punahou, and a host of private and parochial schools that make their government-funded counterparts look like the glorified penitentiaries they all too often are.

I second that emotion.......

.....pundits have been making a big deal of Mitt Romney's affiliation with Bain Capital, a major contributor to the Obama Presidency by the way, noting that in the eyes of many who worked for Bain companies, Bain's modus operandi seemed to be to bleed the companies dry.  Having worked for a few companies where it seemed that accounting was not a feedback mechanism, but rather the sine qua non of the business, I have to second that emotion.  In too many places, there is no apparent management, but rather only a kleptocracy of well-connected people who understand a few accounting metrics.

That said, the reality is that until one demonstrates an ROI for the deviations from the business plan of the accountants, well, what reason do the executives have to change?  So our question to Romney's detractors should not be "well, where do we donate to the Soetoro campaign?", but rather "why don't you show us some of the ROIs that Bain executives bypassed, and why don't you show me how Romney's decisions directly led to this situation?"

And then tell us why Romney should be held accountable for this, and Obama's advisors who come from Bain should not.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"But Dancing is Hard"

Well, when you don't get a lot of commenters, you need to work with what you get--thankfully repeat Daddy W.B. Picklesworth is up to the task.  Hearty congratulations to him and Mall Diva on the birth of little Abigail, by the way.

Now think about the comment "But dancing is hard."

Or, better yet, get yourself and your date--I presume your wife or someone who could become your wife--ready for the dance.  Let's do a checklist:

First, let's find some music suitable for dancing.....unless you want to emulate a lewd act in public, the sad fact is that outside of country music, there isn't a whole lot of recent stuff that will get your feet moving.  Don't even get me started on my recently divorced "cousin."  For that matter, even country & western is getting "rockish."  Great for the mosh pits of my misspent youth, not so good for gracious movement with one's helpmeet.

Lessee....a skirt for one's wife that's suitable for dancing.  Oops, finding something with a bit of ease in it for the beautiful lady in my life is a little bit difficult--you're going to need to go to a specialty store, or at least fairly upscale.  The same goes for a blouse that won't show more than a lady wants to show in public.  Do-able, but not easy.

Now, let's find a pair of low heel shoes (Ginger Rogers could dance in heels, but I'm not ready to risk my wife's ankles) with a leather sole with just the right "slide" to let her move gracefully.  Looking....looking....looking...let's just say that it's a good thing there are shops dedicated to providing shoes for dancers not interested in breaking their ankles.  OK, it took some work, but we did it.....

......looking now for a good dance floor.....OK, who put the carpet there?   Well, yes, when you have 1000 watts of audio power in many living rooms, you need something to dampen the sound, but there is an easier way of making things manageable than ruining your dance floor with woven nylon, don't you think?  See that knob on your stereo labeled "volume"?  There you go. 

Finally, let's get a good mens' suit (OK, even J.C. Penney's has that) and a good pair of men's shoes with a leather sole....OK, that's getting more and more difficult, and quite frankly, more and more expensive....

....on to the floor.  Now what do I notice when my little ones want to waltz with Daddy?  Daddy is getting very, very, very tired....OK, there is something very interesting about our society today.  Fifty years ago, our smoking fathers were able to whirl Mom around the floor for hours on end.   Now, Dad belongs to a health club, rides his bike to work, and comes no nearer tobacco than the six feet from the gas station counter to the cigarettes there, and he's wiped out after half the Blue Skirt Waltz.

Yeah, dancing is hard, and maybe it's time to take a look to the past for some hints on how to keep our bodies young and strong.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

An argument for dance

For the past 20 years or so, I've generally gone to churches that did not, to say the least, promote dancing--this despite the admonitions of Psalms 149 and 150.   And yet.....yet.....well, doesn't the Scripture tell us, or at least ancient Israel, to praise the Lord in dance?

Now we can quibble over whether the form was couples or line dancing (the latter is probably more historical for Bible times), or crack awful wonderful jokes ("Why don't Baptists make love standing up?  Because it might lead to dancing!"), but then.....maybe we ought to consider the idea (thanks Pentacostals and Charismatics) that our love for and worship of God ought to have a physical expression?  That even "feet glued to the floor" Minnesotans like myself can move a little bit while singing or (shudder!) listening to a sermon?  (don't worry; it's not a gimme that it'll lead to "holy vomiting")

And for that matter, let's think about couples dancing--say a waltz, two step, three step or polka, or maybe even a tango--and let's consider the picture that's being drawn.  The man leads, and with his right hand on the waist of his partner, gently draws her to him.  She follows, using her left hand to gently press against his shoulder to give adequate space for them both to move.  He joins his left hand to her right hand, and they move....together....gracefully if they harmony....around the floor.

To be honest, it's not a bad picture of the relationship between the Church and her Lord.  Does not Christ lead us and gently draw us to Him?  Do we (shouldn't we at least?) follow?  If we (Ephesians 5 and elsewhere) view Christ as the Bridegroom in Heaven--hence our betrothed at this time--isn't that hand on His shoulder a picture of our current status? 

Now don't get me wrong--there is abundant evidence that dancing can go very wrong, such as "Dancing with the Stars" and the "Macarena," or worse yet, the Lollipop Guild.  Even so, I've got to think that there are worse things Christians can do than learn to dance.  Even if my feet are still glued to the floor at church.

Maybe I'll start by moving my little finger.  Nobody will see......

Monday, January 02, 2012

Great ways of fulfilling that resolution to exercise

11.  Have a fussy baby who needs to be rocked at night, preferably while Mom and Dad dance to old time music.

10.  Biblical discipline of your children.

9. Repairing your children's cheap inexpensive violins so they'll actually keep in tune.  (for the aspiring luthier, this can be done by reworking the tuning pegs so they actually fit...and unless you've got a lathe, it involves a lot of sanding and hand work)

8.  In the words of a vanity license plate my brother-in-law and his wife had, "MKNKIDS."  (it was supposed to mean Mark, Kristi, and kids, but that's not what my wife and I read....)

7.  Making brioche.  (but not necessarily eating too much of it)

6.  For that matter, any breadmaking that requires kneading.  Skip the KitchenAid, folks.

5.  Dancing with the kids after they get into the music little Benny is enjoying.  (whew)

4.  Walk to the grocery store.  (couldn't do it in the Twin Cities, but now Hy-Vee is only half a mile away)

3.  Walk to get luthier's supplies in town.  (yes for strings, bridge, pegs and button...working on varnish and hide glue)

2.  Walk the dog and reduce the amount of clean-up in the yard for next spring.

1.  Walk to church.